The way structures are listed today came from a need to protect buildings of significant interest in the aftermath of World War II. The listings were used to decide whether a particular building should be rebuilt if it was damaged by bombing. Today, in England and Wales, listed buildings are separated into three categories:
- Grade I: buildings of exceptional interest
- Grade II*: particularly important buildings of special interest
- Grade II: buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them
Most listed building owners are likely to live in a Grade II building, as these make up 92 percent of all listed buildings. Grade I buildings include well-known national monuments, such as Buckingham Palace, Blackpool Tower and the Houses of Parliament. The specific criteria for a building to get listed include aspects such as age and rarity, aesthetic merits, and national interest. Where there is a large number of similar styles, only the most representative examples are listed, and usually, the older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed.
Purchasing a listed property
If you are unsure whether a property you are buying is listed, check this out with your solicitor rather than relying on the estate agent. If the property is indeed listed, it is important to make sure that any alterations carried out by previous owners had consent, as any work done in the past becomes the responsibility of the new owner.
Working with architects, builders and other tradespeople who have worked with listed buildings before should make the process easier. However, while these people may have many years of experience, don’t assume they know building law. So before making a formal application for listed building consent, we recommend you talk to your local conservation officer about what you want to achieve – and also establish what is likely to be acceptable.
Even small changes like cleaning brickwork and painting may need consent, so it is better to get professional advice before taking further action, which could be deemed a criminal offence. Making sure you use an insurance company that has a good understanding of listed buildings is also advisable; any damage caused by natural disasters can be very expensive to renovate.
Usually, repairs need to match the existing detail and use the materials originally employed. There is, of course, some leeway with this which can be discussed with your local conservation authority. Adding to a listed building – for example in the form of an extension – can take on a totally modern approach, and more often than not a clear distinction between old and new is preferred.
Purchasing a listed building truly means owning a piece of history, and by taking great care of the property you own means it can be enjoyed by generations to come!
If you have any questions about your listed building or are looking to purchase a listed building don’t hesitate to contact us.